Movie Review: “Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol”

Written by Josh Litman December 23, 2011

They’ve achieved the impossible.

Each of the four Mission Impossible films have had a different director attached; therefore, not surprisingly, each has emerged with a uniquely different flavour. The first was a taut thriller directed by Brian DePalma; the second was an absurdly unrealistic action blockbuster directed by John Woo (the most craptastic of the bunch); the third was a slick, more character-centric submission directed by J.J. Abrams; and finally, this latest entry was directed by Brad Bird.

In the past, Brad Bird has directed some pretty fantastic films. But here’s the catch: they were all animated (e.g., Iron Giant, Ratatouille). Leading off that point, it’s certainly reasonable then to question the guy’s ability to direct a live-action film of any sort, let alone an action-packed entry in the Mission Impossible saga. And yet, Mr. Bird has achieved the impossible: He has bestowed audiences with the greatest entry in the series yet.

Bird’s experience directing animated fare might explain why Ghost Protocol feels so boundless in vision and scope. Visually, the film truly goes places no other has gone before. Watching Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) scale Dubai’s Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world, no doubt) induced a genuine feeling of vertigo in me. Let me repeat myself: This movie gave me vertigo. No other film has done that to me before. And honestly, I can’t think of a single other film that has quite so immersed me in that way. I was literally recoiling back in my seat. To be fair, the IMAX experience certainly helped contribute to the immersion, but ultimately it’s the ambitiously grand scale of the film that takes the cake.

Also, big props to Cruise for performing his own stunts; he’s one committed actor, I’ll give him that. I’ve gained a whole new level of respect for the guy…couch-jumpingly crazy as he might be.

Speaking of Cruise, he once again puts in a solid performance as super-spy Ethan Hunt. The character itself is still somewhat hollow, but Cruise makes him enjoyable to watch nonetheless. His team this time around is also a pleasure to behold, with some surprisingly developed chemistry between its four members.

Benji (Simon Pegg) is the comic relief tech guru; Jane (Paula Paton) is the gorgeous agent in search of some good ol’ revenge; and Brandt (Jeremy Renner) is the wild-card analyst who might be a bit more than just your average analyst. Brandt, in particular, is the most intriguing new addition, given that he actually has a history worth tuning in to.

On the flip side of the coin, the film’s antagonist Hendricks (portrayed by Michael Nyqvist) is completely unremarkable. It’s not so much Nyqvist’s fault as that he is given so little screen time and character motivation other than the surface trait of being a nuclear extremist. Thankfully, the chemistry between the Impossible Missions Force (IMF) team members more than makes up for it.

The plot is not overly complicated, but it works: the IMF team goes rogue after being framed for the bombing of the Kremlin. They then proceed to go on a series of missions to stop the launch of a nuclear missile before time runs out and something goes boom.

The missions, by the way, are spectacular. I could have watched Ethan and his crew just barely make it from mission to mission for at least another couple hours. One of the film’s greatest strengths is in paying attention to detail when it comes to its larger-scale sections. There are parts where the action’s choreography is somewhat obvious to the viewer, but you simply won’t care: you’ll be having too much fun.

And that’s the best way to describe this film: fun. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, instead finding a satisfying balance between action, humour, and pathos. It latches onto your attention and holds it like its box office take depends on it (ahem…). It plays the spy game very well, managing to be sneaky in parts and hard-hitting in others. I was worried at first when it seemed like back-story and emotional pull were going to be neglected in favour of all-out action; but I became pleasantly surprised to find that these important elements do creep into the plot over time, leaving the viewer feeling emotionally satisfied by the time the credits roll.

The word “thrilling” gets thrown around a lot when talking about action movies, but in the case of Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol, the term perfectly applies. The energy is high, the action is nonstop, the scope is massive, and the mission tasks are inspired. Brad Bird turned out to be a great choice for director, ambitiously injecting this entry with the greatest excitement yet. Four movies in you can still expect a highly entertaining action-spy flick from start to finish.

And that music just never gets old, does it….

My Rating: 8.5/10

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About Josh Litman

Josh Litman

Director/producer/writer/actor/editor/cinematographer/musician/neuroscientist… Josh prides himself on being simultaneously awesome and modest. In addition to We Eat Films, Josh also produces his own work (films, writing) under the banner of Action Potential Productions and has his own website, too, where his handiwork can be viewed: www.actionpp.com -- or www.joshlitman.com (if you prefer).

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